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Report from IUPAC-Sponsored Symposium


3-8 November 2001 in Antalya, Turkey

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by Torbjörn Norin

Biodiversity is an important international topic and the biological implications of biodiversity have been extensively discussed from both scientific and political points of view. However, biodiversity ultimately rests on chemodiversity and, consequently, studies in the field of natural products chemistry offer a deeper understanding of the chemistry of life processes and of complex biological and ecological interactions in Nature. Biomolecular aspects of biodiversity have therefore become an important topic. The scientific challenges and opportunities in the field as well as the possibilities for sustainable utilization of our rich natural resources are enormous. However, they need dedicated attention in order not to threaten future development and welfare.

A few years ago IUPAC’s Division of Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry initiated activities in the field of biodiversity. The past president of the Division, Professor Upendra Pandit, took the lead. A series of successful conferences was initiated: the first in Thailand and the second in Brazil. The 3rd IUPAC International Conference on Biodiversity (ICOB-3) was held 3-8 November 2001 in Antalya, Turkey, which was appropriate as it is a country that abounds in biodiversity. Furthermore, Turkey’s rich history and diversified cultural heritage provided an extra dimension to the atmosphere of the conference.

The period of the meeting followed, unfortunately, hard on the heels of the tragic events of September 11 in the United States. This presented the organizers with special problems in view of the cancellation of attendance by a number of participants, including several speakers. In some cases the participants could not receive permission to travel from their home countries. However, despite these adverse circumstances, the chairperson of the conference, Professor Bilge Sener of Gazi University, Ankara, through her enormous effort and constructive inventiveness, managed to organize a highly successful scientific event.

The conference listed about 196 participants from 40 countries. The program consisted of five days of exciting interdisciplinary science. Biomolecular aspects of biodiversity and innovative utilization of natural resources were discussed from very diverse points of view–ranging from their botanical, zoological, taxonomic, and genomic expressions to their biomolecular, structural, mechanistic, and functional aspects.

There were 11 plenary lectures that covered a range of subjects, including the following:

  • Professor William S. Bowers (USA) provided us with exciting information about chemical communication in the insect world and on insect/plant interactions.
  • Professor Magid Abou-Gharbia (USA) presented some successful discoveries of new drugs based on natural products.
  • Professor S. Qasim Mehdi (Pakistan) gave an account of a current study of the human genome diversity. He presented population studies of protein polymorphism and human leucocyte antigens supported by mitochondrial DNA, autosomal microsatellite diversity, and single nucleotide polymorphism.
  • Professor K. Hüsnü Can Baser (Turkey) described the fascinating chemodiversity of herbs and other plants producing essential oils, some of which are of commercial significance.
  • Professor Neriman Özhatay (Turkey) presented an interesting lecture on the diversity of bulbous monocots, with special reference to the chromosome numbers.
  • Professor Brian J. Huntley (South Africa) highlighted botanical aspects of biodiversity, preservation, and sustainable use of natural resources with focus on the flora of South Africa.
  • Dr. Jag Mohan Khanna (India) presented a critical review with pro’s and con’s on the development of new drugs derived from natural products.
  • Professor Atta-ur-Rahman, despite duties as the Minister of Science and Technology in Pakistan, was able to attend the conference and deliver a lecture on his successful research in natural product chemistry with the aim to develop new drugs and other useful chemicals.
  • Professor Ya-Ping Zhang (China) provided information about the importance of genetic variation for the survival and conservation of species.
  • Dr. Priscila de Almeida Leone (Australia) presented a brilliant overview of recent work carried out at AstraZeneca R&D Griffith University, Brisbane, on Australian plants and marine organisms.
  • Professor Günay Sariyar (Turkey) presented the final lecture on infraspecific variation of alkaloid content in Papaver species and its chemotaxonomic implications.

In addition to these plenary lectures, there were 30 session lectures and two poster sessions. The almost 60 posters were on display during the whole conference. This arrangement provided excellent opportunities for informal contacts, especially with the young Turkish scientists. One session was devoted to a panel discussion on the means for international cooperation on molecular diversity. A draft report from the IUPAC project on Molecular Basis of Biodiversity; Conservation and Sustained Innovative Utilisation was also discussed (see report).

The social arrangements included a beautiful and memorable ballet performance at the opening ceremony, a lavish get-together mixer, and a relaxed, joyful, and excellent banquet dinner. A conference tour to the old Roman city of Demre was also part of the program. We thank Professor Bilge Sener for providing us with this opportunity to discuss exciting results and the significant progress in the emerging field of molecular biodiversity.

We now look forward to the 4th conference in this series, which will be combined with the 24th IUPAC Symposium on the Chemistry of Natural Products in New Delhi, India 2004.

Torbjörn Norin is past president of the Division of Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry. He is a professor at the Royal Institute of Technology, in Stockholm, Sweden.


> Published in Chem. Int. 24(5), 2002

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